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Ribozyme Chemistry: To Be or Not To Be under High Pressure

Published Article
Chemical Reviews
American Chemical Society (ACS)
Publication Date
Dec 10, 2019
DOI: 10.1021/acs.chemrev.9b00457


The use of high hydrostatic pressure to investigate structure–function relationships in biomacromolecules in solution provides precise information about conformational changes and variations of the interactions between these macromolecules and the solvent, as well as the volume changes associated with their activity. The complementary use of osmotic pressure reveals quantitatively the extent and direction of the water exchanges between the macromolecules and the solvent and the number of water molecules involved in these exchanges. In this review, the chemistry of ribozymes and the influence of pressure is described. In the case of the hairpin ribozyme, pressure slowed down the self-cleavage reaction on the basis that the formation of the transition state involves a positive ΔV⧧ of activation and the release of 78 ± 4 water molecules. The self-cleaving activity of the hammerhead ribozyme is also slowed down by pressure on the basis of kinetic parameters and ΔVs comparable to those of the hairpin ribozymes. However, it appears that the solution of the hammerhead ribozyme used in this study contains two populations of molecules which differ by the values of these parameters. The results obtained in the case of small self-cleaving ribozymes containing adenine bulges are consistent with the hypothesis that these small RNAs that bind amino acids or peptides could have appeared in prebiotic chemistry under extreme conditions in deep-sea vents or hydrothermal surface sites.

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